This post profiles the careers of some Negro League first basemen who have not been inducted in the Hall of Fame.
Bill Pettus was a strong Texan who excelled during the Deadball Era. Able to play behind the dish as well, Bill typically batted in the heart of the order. His career was rather nomadic. Most seasons he would play for at least two teams since he often jumped clubs in the middle of a season. Despite his footloose ways, Pettus was a valuable man on a club because of his batting skills and his ability to speak Spanish. Bill is noted for stealing signs when his club would play Spanish-speaking teams.
A clever defender, George Giles was another nomadic Negro Leaguer who played all over the nation. He was with St. Louis when they won pennants in the early 1930s and he played off and on with his hometown Kansas City Monarchs throughout the 1920s and 1930s. A decent hitter for average but with minimal power, Giles earned a reputation with his glove. He was adept at digging balls out of the dirt and covered more ground than most first basemen of his time.
Longtime Monarchs first baseman Buck O’Neil gained national fame when Ken Burns used him quite liberally in his documentary titled Baseball. Buck had a full life in baseball. He starred at first base for the Monarchs through their powerful years, he won a batting title after missing three seasons to World War II, he was a fixture in the Negro League All-Star Games as a first baseman and manager and he became the first black coach in the Major Leagues. Mister O’Neil was baseball’s greatest ambassador until his death a few years back. There was a big push to get Buck inducted into the Hall of Fame but he fell a vote shy of election. The Hall of Fame decided to honor Buck nonetheless and created a Buck O’Neil Award and placed a bronze statue of him at Cooperstown.
Born George Henry Carr, the large Californian was known to black baseball simply as “Tank” Carr. Big and heavy, Tank was a powerful switch-hitting first baseman for the Hilldale club of the 1920s. A gifted natural hitter, Carr could hit for high averages and true to his stout build, walloped his share of homeruns. Carr was uncommonly fast for a man his size as he could steal 30 bases a season. Like most big men however, Tank excelled for a handful of years but his stardom didn’t last as long as it could have had he been in better condition.
Lou Dials made his rounds in the Negro Leagues. A first baseman who could play anywhere in the outfield as well, Dials was a high average hitter during the 1920s. He starred with the American Giants in the mid to late 1920s but after a few years of bouncing around from team to team, he went to Mexico and played there four years. When he returned to the States, World War II was underway and Lou spent the entire war on a war plant job and played ball in an Industrial League.